The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Inauguration Day 2025 could usher in a living nightmare for D.C.

President Donald Trump walks from the Oval Office to board Marine One on July 27, 2020, in Washington. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
4 min

If to be forewarned is to be forearmed, then the country, and D.C., should be on notice about what lies ahead unless steps are taken now to deal with potential dangers.

Let’s dispense with the preamble and get to the point: If Donald Trump is elected president again in 2024, Justice Department prosecutions of Jan. 6 rioters will cease and sentences of those imprisoned will be commuted. Trump as much as said so.

Yes, Trump has big-time legal troubles, including an indictment this week by a Manhattan grand jury. But he can still make a presidential run while under indictment or even if he is convicted of a crime. Where Trump is concerned, plan for the worst.

Gift of prophecy, I have not. But I predict with confidence that if noon arrives on a second Trump Inauguration Day, the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents after he left office will be stone-cold dead by sundown. As will the federal probe into Trump’s involvement in schemes to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

That’s for starters.

Trump has telegraphed his punches, declaring that if elected, he will: direct the Justice and Education departments to oversee discipline in the nation’s schools. Create a “new credentialing body” that would certify teachers who embrace patriotic values (apparently as defined by him). And, as president, push for the direct election of school principals by students’ parents.

To bring down the power of government on transgender people, as some state capitols have done, Trump said he will order federal agencies to stop doctors from providing gender-affirming care for minors.

As for the truthful teaching of U.S. history and discussions about racial inequalities and injustices, Trump has called for funding to be slashed for schools teaching “critical race theory” or courses with “inappropriate racial, sexual or political content” (as seen through his eyes).

These warnings don’t begin to touch Trump’s expected policy reversals on other domestic and international fronts. Trump doesn’t view defending Ukraine against Vladimir Putin as a vital concern. Or fighting climate change, or protecting voting rights. He will use his executive authority to undo as many Biden administration health-care, environmental, criminal justice and other social reforms as he can.

Which brings us to advanced warning of the other looming danger: continued Republican control of the House in the 2024 elections.

Put the two images together: Trump in the White House, and Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) clutching the speaker’s gavel. Imagine the havoc they will wreak on an economically hard-pressed, socially torn nation, especially if the 2024 election gives Trump not only the House but, given a tough 2024 map for Democrats, the Senate, too.

Under that scenario, there’s every reason to fear that Congress would bring on a repeal of already limited D.C. home rule, to be followed by the creation of a Trump-appointed D.C. government.

To be forewarned, however, is to be on notice that none of these prophecies needs to come true. Provided people who care about the future begin acting now, not when election year is well underway.

As a first step, Democrats should recognize the stumbling blocks to retaining the White House and Senate and to regaining control of the House.

President Biden and Vice President Harris don’t stand in the way. Internecine backbiting and bleating about changing the Democratic presidential ticket only draw energy from the tasks at hand: which are electing a Congress that is willing to right terrible wrongs; which will help put people to work and provide schools that are safe for children; which will bring controls over guns and the people who use them in our streets; which will deliver racial justice and protect sexual and gender identity. We need a Congress intent on maintaining America’s place in the world, not steering it into isolation. We don’t have that kind of Congress now. And we certainly wouldn’t under Trump.

No way around it. Based upon their records and behavior, Republicans blocking progress must be defeated. There was a time Republicans were part of a forward-looking America, not the rearward-thinking pack now on hand. The House Democratic majority must be restored. And a Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the Oval Office retained.

That kind of work backed up by time, treasure and talent — especially treasure — shouldn’t begin next year. It should be underway now.

Otherwise, wake up the day after Election Day 2024 and he’s back — along with all the disorder and destruction that comes with him.